Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Reading Is the Duty of Every Person*

Have I mentioned how I hate the phonics-based method of teaching reading? How I hate it with the white-hot blaze of a Bessemer furnace staffed by union steelworkers making overtime as it runs 24/7? If not, well, now you know.

I have yet to see a story written where 8 out of 10 words rhyme with each other that's interesting. Nobody talks like that. Why do we expect children to read stories like that? Why do we front-load reading with tedious plodding "plots" that convolute themselves to fit the sound of the day? If *I* don't want to read the story, why should I expect any child to?

It just makes "Reading Is Fun!" the biggest lie kids have heard at school so far. And if kids think that one of the greatest and most beautiful truths about being human is false, then there's not much more use in trying, is there?

*Bolshevik slogan.


  1. i learned to read on my own, and i don't recall how i managed it. do you have any ideas on different ways to teach it? i am currently thinking that i will go with the labelling everything in the house with its name and then talking about it using those names method, and then some hopefulness. my parents say that they did that with me.

  2. With our kids, we do a lot of what is called "whole word" play. (I think that's what it's called.) We read aloud to them every day, we do lots of word play in the car (rhyming, opposite, "letter" words ("do you know a 'b' word? What's another 'b' word?)), and had a lot of picture dictionaries and stuff like that.

    Labeling sounds like a good idea, too.

    I know phonics probably works great for some kids, but it seems to very counterintuitive to me.

  3. I so agree about phonics. My mom (a first-grade teacher) is totally into the whole-language method of teaching reading. The idea is that when we read, we recognize the shape or "look" of the word ("word" has three letters of a similar shape, then the "d" sticks up on top) rather than reading every single individual letter, one at a time. (This is why even the best editors sometimes miss the typo "form" for "from" -- the words are "shaped" exactly the same and most people miss the transposed "o" and "r" when reading it at a normal speed.) Try reading a sentence one letter at a time and you'll see how cumbersome and ridiculous it is -- whole language teaches children to learn words as a whole, not individual letters (the phonics approach). My mom has a "word wall" in her classroom where all kinds of common age-appropriate words are posted -- and they add more words as the year goes on. I want a word wall in my house, too.

  4. That's right, whole language. I couldn't remember what it was called.